Last Friday, the Times hosted the second installment of our new monthly film series with the Little Rock Film Festival, “Who is Dayani Cristal?” This particular event was also sponsored in collaboration with El Zócalo Immigrant Resource Center, a grassroots nonprofit in Central Arkansas. (I sit on El Zócalo’s board.) Outside, we had tacos and steaming hot champurrado for sale from La Herradura, a local food truck.
Ron Robinson Theater manager Elizabeth Strandberg estimated that about 150 people turned out to enjoy the film. Well, “enjoy” might be an imprecise word, considering the volume of sniffling coming from the crowd towards the end. The point of “Dayani Cristal” is to humanize the suffering of migrant workers, thousands of whom have died in the deserts of the American Southwest in recent years while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s an intriguing story and beautifully shot, but it contains some candid shots of real human grief that are tough to watch.
To twist the emotional knife, we had a post-film discussion with two women from the immigrant community in Arkansas who talked of crossing the border decades ago and making their homes here in the state in the years since. These are stories that are difficult to hear, and, for many of us, difficult to register as being real – but they are real, and so are the tens of thousands of immigrant families in Arkansas who have lived those experiences. We’d especially like to thank our two guests for sharing their personal stories.
The film was free thanks to El Zócalo and donations from two other sponsoring nonprofits, the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Conyers Institute of Public Policy, but generous donations from the crowd totaled more than enough to cover the cost of purchasing the film. El Zócalo’s executive director, Sara Mullally, also joined us for the discussion afterwards.
The Times will soon be announcing a date for our December film screening – it won’t be a documentary, nor a tearjerker – so stay tuned.